Artists In Their Own Words: Shamarr Allen
Who: Shamarr Allen
What: trumpeter and singer
Where: Musician’s Village
Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: CC’s on Esplanade: moved from a breezy table outside to an inside corner table due to an overzealous leaf blower
Q: What’s a word in a foreign language that you feel like fits with your life?
A: Bima. It’s Lingala and it means “Boo” or “Be gone. You suck.” That’s a part of my life because we made a song about that word while we were in the Congo this July. In the Congo, when people perform and the music isn’t good, the crowd will start yelling bima. Our translators were telling us about how the word means “Get out of here,” so we decided we’d write a song about it. That way if we sucked and they started yelling bima, we could just play our song.
We wrote the song, and we actually got two of the local rappers to rap on it, and we recorded it and everything. We were hoping that we were going to get the bima at one of our concerts, so we could play the song. We tried to create a situation where it would happen without messing up our music. We would wait to start songs, I was messing around with the microphone and acting like it wasn’t working, and we were trying all this stuff to get them the start chanting it. It never happened, though. Everyone was enjoying themselves.
We just did the song at the end of the show. They liked it.
Q: What’s the sneakiest thing you ever did as a kid?
A: I plead the fifth. Some of those things may still get me in trouble.
Q: When you’re traveling, what’s something that can or has triggered homesickness for you?
A: The lack of Internet. I think the best way to get to know someone is through conversation. Face-to-face conversation rather than texting, social media, or things like that. You need to be able to read peoples' body language because that tells you more than you can get through anything else.
There are different nonverbal actions you have to be aware of, and sometimes my radar goes off, and I know I need to keep moving. You have to follow your gut.
When I’m traveling, though, being in places that don’t have good Internet is terrible. I have two sons, and the only way I get to keep in touch with them is through FaceTime or Skype. I don’t want Internet for anything else, but it’s a way for me to feel like I’m still home even when I’m away.
I get to see my sons run around and do their craziness. They’ll play videogames and talk about each other, so it makes me feel like I’m right there with them. My fifteen-year-old helped make me who I am. I would have probably been a totally different person if it wasn’t for him. He’s at NOCCA, and he’s focusing on music. He plays drums and piano, and we play together sometimes. It’s pretty cool.
For me, it’s awesome to see him make his own money, buy his own video games or tennis shoes. The things that he wants. It teaches him this valuable lesson because he doesn’t like to spend his own money. [Laughs]. It makes him determine if he really wants those items are not. If he still wants them as badly as he wanted them when I was going to pay for them, then he works toward that.
Q: What the strangest thing that’s ever happened to your lips?
A: I had a weird twitching in my lip once before. I stopped playing trumpet for a while. When I picked it back up and started playing again, I overworked it and my lip started twitching. That muscle would just go crazy. You could just see it twitching on my upper lip, and sometimes it would alternate—one side of my upper lip and then the other. It lasted for about a week.
Q: If you could have a band as your alarm clock, what band would you choose?
A: My band. The Underdawgs. I couldn’t make that happen, though, because they’d cost too much. I can’t afford them.
Shamarr Allen has been a member of two Grammy-nominated bands: The Hot 8 Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band. You can see him play with his current band, Shamarr Allen and The Underdawgs, this Saturday (8/1) at the Shamrock at 10 p.m. (Da Truth Brass Band is opening). His new album, "True Orleans," is due out this fall. As Cultural Ambassadors, invited by the U.S. Department of State, Shamarr and the Underdawgs have toured Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (2011); Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan (2012); as well as other tours through Asia, and they just returned from the Republic of Congo (2015). To learn more about Shamarr Allen and his music, you can visit his website, or follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.